Trust for four-rivers projectPresident Lee Myung-bak said Monday that he will not push forward the construction of a cross-country grand canal during his term of office.
Amid the candlelight protests against the government in June last year, Lee said he would not initiate the project if the people oppose it. Back then, the president had strings attached to his decision, but this time, Lee made clear that he is abandoning the plan.
Lee admitted he was very frustrated with the general public’s high level of distrust toward the government, adding that he wanted to clearly and publicly announce that he will not initiate the canal project.
Although belated, we believe Lee has made the right decision.
The next task is the four-rivers restoration project, which will not be an easy one. It is the largest state-funded project ever, costing an estimated 22 trillion won ($17.2 billion).
We believe it is critical to restore the four major rivers in order to prevent flooding and to prepare for the looming water shortage crisis.
And yet, the program has faced controversy as well. While water contamination affects branch streams, the project is concentrated on restoring the main streams of the rivers.
Many people say the quality of water is unlikely to improve and further contamination could damage the rivers’ ecosystems. Recommendations have also been made that it will be more appropriate to restore one river at a time, instead of beginning construction at all four rivers at once.
The government has brought distrust upon itself by increasing the programs’ estimated expenses from 14 trillion won to 22 trillion won in just six months.
The government must calmly push forward the four-rivers project with an open-minded attitude. After the controversy surrounding the grand canal project, the public has become skeptical. It is hard to change perception and image once it is engraved on people’s minds.
From now on, the administration must do its best to get the public’s support and present a thoroughly laid-out plan for the successful implementation of the project. Only then will the skepticism and distrust abate.
Some politicians and environmental groups also need to stop opposing plans for the sake of opposing them. The Land Ministry had opposed the Grand Canal project but reversed its position overnight after the administration changed.
That is an embarrassment, but it is also shameful to see environmentalists, who have worried about the nation’s contaminated rivers, suddenly argue that the rivers are healthy just to oppose the administration’s policy.